Catholic archbishop on Detroit diocese: 'We are a shrinking community'

Wow, those numbers are wayyyyy bigger than I thought they would be.
Kind of shocking. And yet, not surprising at all.

In just 13 years, there has been a 50% drop in the number of Catholic baptisms and marriages performed in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron revealed Wednesday.
That figure stood out for Vigneron as the Detroit archdiocese released findings from a November survey of 41,000 Detroit-area Catholics. While the survey showed that nearly two-thirds of surveyed Catholics rated their parishes as “good” or “excellent” in promoting Catholic goals, it underscored why Catholics gave lower marks for outreach to youths, young adults and lapsed Catholics.
“We are a shrinking community,” said Vigneron, adding that other denominations and Catholic dioceses in the Midwest and northeast report similar declines. As many as one out of three people raised Catholic have left the church, studies suggest.*


If one avoids eurocentrism, Christianity is exploding in the third world, which really puts paid to the tired internet arguments about the inevitable forward march of secularism. What is really happening on the whole, however, is that the demographics of Christendom are changing.

However in the west, the faith is dying, and it’s high time that the prelates of the Church started recognizing this and stopped acting as if immigration was going to stop this mass apostasy from the faith. God bless Bishop Vigneron for stepping up to the plate, hopefully more bishops will follow.

Beyond teaching the fullness of the Catholic faith itself in catechesis, which has been hit or miss since the 1960s, one thing that needs to be taught to children is natural theology and apologetics, because there is so much illogical, fallacious, sophmoric and historically unsubstiantiated garbage that is being pushed into kids minds in dumbed down public schools, the media and from the internet that the Church has to offer some intellectual meat to its young to counter this deluge of muddled secularist thinking.

Apostasy is taking its toll and just how do surveys, polls and dialogue nourish the faith life? That is an action of the Holy Spirit who blows His breath into those parishes faithful to spiritual matters and I’m pleasantly surprised that those responding (who are practicing Catholics) have the discernment to say that two of the most important things to them are quality worship, and strong Church teaching. This is something many pastors fail to achieve for their emphasis on community, political and social justice issues. In confirmation of this did you notice that in a related story is a link to the article “A rebel priest makes his mark” by supporting all manner of things contrary to infallible Church teaching? No wonder people are turning away from an institution that fails to preach, teach and proclaim God’s truth which is the very heartbeat and life blood of the faith.

I would suspect that this exploding Christianity is, in part, due to the martyrdom of Christians which is reaching numbers in the tens of thousands in remote areas. What do we have here in the west but constant rebellion against the Church and support of all cultural and secular (and I might add, anti-Christian) values. Contrast that with those ready to die for their faith! :shrug:

While this is unfortunate,I don’t know that any of us in the west would consider this “new”. In my experience, the aging, shrinking parish seems to be par for the course for most of the west.

I think that many within the Western World have simply ceased to make religion a part of their life. Before my conversion experienced I wasn’t at all religious and I didn’t feel deprived. All of my friends from high school and many of my friends from University had no experience with organized religion other than attending the odd Church service with a parent. Pitching to religion to people who don’t have it and don’t feel like they need it is tough! If we want to see the faith grow we need to convince people that a healthy spiritual life gives us something that can’t be replaced by anything else.

This is true. However, who can say even this will be true for long? Either Catholicism is universal or it isn’t. Where’s the commonness even within parishes when “They have their Mass, we have ours?” In one Mass everyone receives; the other Mass half don’t. Confession lines are getting better in some cases; in others, they’re non existent. People speak in different languages now in Church. People believe what they want to believe. It took a lady journalist, proficient in Latin, outside the Vatican to first realize that Pope Benedict resigned. Wasn’t there a lesson learned from the Tower of Babel?

The population numbers in Detroit are in “free fall” anyway. I would be interested in the survey report out that mentions this factoid in relationship to the impact on a shrinking Catholic community and practice.

Will the last person leaving Detroit please turn off the lights?

So I wonder if the good Archbishop (I’m not being sarcastic, he really is one of the decent ones in the USA) will put 2 and 2 together?

The Catholic leadership’s deafening silence on contraception = few people in the pews as time goes by.

These statistics are a wake up call!!! We need to pray that our church leaders defend the teachings of the Church, teach the Truth in its fullness to the faithful, and do their best to repair the damage done in the most of the Church in the West.

Is the decline in part explained by the decline in population in Detroit?

I am posting on this thread to share relevant information. My home address gets the Catholic diocese to the west of Detroit’s mailings and the numbers aren’t much different. Weekly mass attendance is reported to be down 23%, weddings down over 50%, and incoming RCIA members down 53% from 2003-2013. Population is basically unchanged in this diocese over this time. It’s also reproduced here.

[quote=]I… Population is basically unchanged in this diocese over this time. It’s also reproduced page=18"]here

(Forgive my pointing out the unintentional pun in the above quote which references a report).

Sadly the decline in my diocese mirrors Detroit. Here are some reasons, in my opinion:

  • Poor catechesis for decades - no doctrinal content means many parents and Catholic teachers are unsure about what is true or right, so they can’t pass it on;

  • The great majority of priests spend most of their time with elderly Catholics (I am one myself) who have already heard the gospel. Most spend little or no time with young adults; there are very few Catholic programs at all for this age group.

  • Until recently, liturgical abuses were rampant, and the translation of the OF was very horizontal until a couple years ago. This, along with Sesame Street church architecture and music destroyed the sense of sacred in many people.

  • The obsession with careerism and empowerment in Catholic education, especially for girls took away from preparation or understanding of family life.

The population of the Detroit metropolitan area has not been declining. That is the region of the Archdiocese.


This seems to be part of a national trend. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (Georgetown University) is a valuable source of statistics. A few years ago, it noted the worrying decline in the number of marriages and baptisms.

Baptisms and marriages in the Church have declined in number each year since 2001. The crude infant baptism rate (annual number of infant baptisms per 1,000 Catholics) reached a peak during the post-war Baby Boom in 1956 at 36.1. In 2009, this had fallen to only 12.7 infant baptisms per 1,000 Catholics. The crude marriage rate (annual number of marriages celebrated in the Church per 1,000 Catholics) peaked right after World War II at 15.1 in 1947. In 2009, this had fallen to only 2.7 marriages in the Church per 1,000 Catholics.

The percentage of Catholics in the US population hasn’t fallen. I think this is largely due to immigration to this country, which has helped replace the departure of Catholics who leave the Faith. But that stability is misleading in part because Catholics are simply living longer, so the Catholic population is getting older. This masks the the problem of declining baptisms.

Yet, it is still of great concern that the absolute number of Catholic infant baptisms continues to dip annually. For example, the number of baptisms, when projected five years into the future, is correlated with entry-level Catholic school enrollment. If baptisms are falling, most likely enrollments will fall at the same pace. Are fewer Catholics choosing to baptize their children? Or are Catholics just having fewer children, as the national trend indicates? The answer to these questions implies very different potential responses.

The data indicate that almost all self-identified Catholics having children are baptizing those children (most within a year of birth and some in later childhood years). In 2009, the crude birth rate for the United States was 13.8 per 1,000 population whereas the crude Catholic baptism rate was 12.7 per 1,000 Catholics. Historically, these two rates are strongly correlated (R=.984). Most of the decline in Catholic baptisms is attributable to the decline in birth rates from the Baby Boom peak years.

I am not familiar with the Detroit area. However, it may be that the national decline in the number of children raised by Catholics, is also driving the declines in the archdiocese of Detroit. However, the loss of Catholics, who leave the faith, surely is also a factor since their children are unlikely to be baptized. The national decline in the number of Catholic weddings may be a leading indicator of this.

In my extended family, I simply see a lot of too lazy to go to Mass, secularized (through public school, culture, and industry), poorly Catechized Catholics who probably haven’t spent 5 minutes during their lives researching their religion, and watch all the junk on Cable TV and go to the movie theater to see a lot of immoral, violent Hollywood movies thinking they’re being entertained. We have a movie and TV culture that is hostile to most religions (Judaism and Buddhism seem to be an exceptions IMO), and Catholicism in particular.

So, my point is the Catholic Church has competition out there from TV land and Tinsletown and a lot of folk, through personal Pride and the constant brainwashing from the Media, decide to couch potato out. Watching immoral movies and TV becomes the Idol of their lives.

I also had a brother and other relatives who married Protestants and then went to the Protestant Church and raised their children Protestant; the Sex Abuse Scandal doesn’t seem to be a factor in driving anyone in my extended family from going to Mass.

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